TRADE was literally a washout with dozens of businesses around Bournemouth and Poole closing their doors because of the deluge.
Beales, Debenhams, Primark and River Island in Bournemouth town centre were among the big names forced to shut.
In some cases, businesses – including Beales – were able to open again after mopping up, but others suffered structural damage and will have to await insurance assessors.
Staff at Jessops on Bournemouth’s Gervis Place watched as water surged up through the road and cracked a section of tarmac around 12ft by 12ft wide, pushing it up to four inches in the air.
Sales assistant Richard Pring Adams said: “There was a Wilts and Dorset bus on it and it was forced in the air. It was a bit insane.”
Wessex Water staff were yesterday assessing the damage.
One Bournemouth hair salon, Rage in Old Christchurch Road, had just got back to normal after a fire gutted it just before Christmas 2009, leading to the salon closing for six months.
Terry Steventon, who co-owns the salon with his wife Vicki, said: “All the staff and a couple of clients were in when we started noticing water going through some of the light fittings. The first thing we did was switch off the lighting circuits.
“Eventually it started really flooding through, so we switched off all the electrics and moved the clients to a men’s salon called Cranium, which helped us out for a couple of hours.
“We had only just finished our salon in the last month. I think we’ll be out for a few weeks, but we’re a strong business and we’re going to keep calm and carry on.”
Vicki said: “We’ve had two disasters here, we wonder what is going to happen next. Luckily no-one was hurt but it’s just a mess.”
Firefighters pumped water from the flooded basement yesterday while staff started to clear the shop floor.
Shop assistants Danielle Brown and Cammie Hynan were in T Shirt Print in Old Christchurch Road when the ceiling collapsed around them.
Danielle said: “I’d only just walked in. It started in the window and within five minutes it had spread.”
Cammie added: “All the panels started falling down. We were stood in the middle of the shop and something narrowly missed my head.”
Nationwide building society also shut when water came through the roof and brought down the ceiling. Clarks shoe shop in the Square had to close its ground floor to customers because of flooding, although the upstairs children’s department remained open.
Assistant manager Angie Phillips said: “We had about an inch of water across the whole floor space. At least we should make a killing on wellies.” At Castlepoint Shopping Centre stairwells were flooded and shoppers experienced long delays in getting out of the car park.
Operations manager Bill Riddle said: “There’s flooding in Yeomans Way, which is causing problems as it has started seeping into the basement of Sainsbury’s. It’s causing traffic chaos because the traffic has just backed up all down Castle Way.
“ I have never seen rain like it, it’s unbelievable.”
Poole’s Dolphin Shopping Centre had to be evacuated due to flooding.
Centre staff closed the shops for safety reasons, but one entrance was left open and people were sheltering inside a small blocked off area.
The centre re-opened shortly before 1.30pm, once rain had begun to clear.
Poole bus station was 18 inches deep in water at one stage, but services were still running although there were delays.